As osteopaths, we see many people who are concerned about their posture, often saying “I don’t want to end up like ….(insert name of elderly relative)… He/she is completely hunched over!”. It’s great to see people who understand the benefits of prevention over cure, but in many cases the person they are thinking of doesn’t just have bad posture. In fact, they may have an underlying condition such as spinal compression fractures due to osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis causes the bones to become very fragile, occasionally to the point where an action as simple as picking up a bag of groceries causes a vertebra to fracture and collapse, leaving the vertebra in a wedge shape and creating a the effect of a hunched-over posture. This condition has the somewhat old-fashioned name of ‘Dowager’s Hump’.
Osteoporosis can be prevented from developing by maximising bone density in early life, and minimising bone loss in later life. Weight-bearing, high impact activities (like skipping rope or running) in early life will increase bone mass, alongside an adequate calcium intake. Best sources of calcium in your diet are green leafy vegetables, broccoli and dairy products (ideally raw, unpasterised and unhomogenised).
An excessively acid diet will also reduce the amount of calcium in the bones. Avoid excessive red meat, coffee, smoking and carbonated drinks (ie soft drinks) as these all require calcium to be taken from your bones to buffer the acidic environment in your body.
You can also minimise bone loss, especially after menopause, by engaging in moderate-impact exercise and strength training, alongside a higher calcium intake to reduce the calcium losses associated with lower oestrogen levels. In addition, vitamin D is important for bone health.
Osteopaths are able to assess your risks of developing conditions like osteoporosis and give you personalised guidelines for prevention. We can give you guidance on other treatment providers who may be able to help, such as nutritionists or naturopaths, or send you for a bone density scan.
Finally, we can help you with any postural problems you are having, giving you treatment to help your body make the appropriate adjustments, alongside exercise to help maintain the changes.
M.Ost.,B.App.Sc. (Human Biol.)